Israeli police demolished the home of Mahmoud Salhiyeh and his family in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem following a lengthy standoff with the Palestinian family. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Israeli police demolished the home of a Palestinian family in East Jerusalem following a lengthy standoff.
Authorities carried out an "eviction order of illegal buildings" in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on Wednesday, demolishing the home of Mahmoud Salhiyeh, Israeli police said in a statement.
An excavator was sent to raze the property as a witness told CNN that crews "arrived around three o'clock in the morning, cut the electricity and surrounded the house, raiding it and detaining all members who were in the house."
Israeli police and municipality workers initially arrived at the property with a bulldozer and other heavy machinery along with the backing of armed Israeli special forces on Monday as Salhiyeh stood on the roof and threatened to set a gas canister on fire in order to burn down the house where he lived with his wife and children.
Police said an eviction order was first issued in 2017 and had been approved by multiple courts, including the Jerusalem District Court.
"Members of the family living in the illegal buildings were given countless opportunities to hand over the land with consent, but unfortunately they refused to do so, even after meetings and repeated dialogue attempts by the Jerusalem municipality," a police spokesperson said.
The municipality of Jerusalem said the land will be used to build a school for children with special needs featuring 18 classrooms, six kindergartens, sports fields and leisure facilities. The school will be open to the local Arab community, it added.
Waleed Abu Tayeh, a lawyer for the family, said the order was unlawful and went beyond what was agreed upon in court as Salhiyeh "was willing to evict his home, but they demolished his house even though they have an eviction order, not a demolition one."
Tayeh also said authorities demolished Salhiyeh's sister's home, which was not covered by the order.
Fleur Hassan Nahoum, deputy mayor of Jerusalem, said the order was for both eviction and demolition and the action against Salhiyeh's sister's house was consistent with the court's order.
Dozens of other families in the area are in a similar position as authorities in some cases say the buildings were illegally constructed or face expropriation orders, while Jewish organizations have challenged ownership of the land in decades-long court cases.